HUD reinstates housing assistance to Garfield County | AspenTimes.com

HUD reinstates housing assistance to Garfield County

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colo. – The Garfield County Housing Authority will receive the additional low-income rental assistance funding it requested from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allowing several dozen local families to stay in their homes.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and 3rd District Congressman John Salazar sent a letter earlier this month asking the assistant secretary for Public and Indian Housing to see that the Garfield County Housing Authority not lose money that has been helping 76 local families.

Bennet announced in a press release Tuesday that the Garfield County Housing Authority (GCHA) will receive the funding it needs to address a budget shortfall in its Section 8 voucher program.

“The economic downturn has been difficult for many Colorado families who work hard every day to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads,” Bennet said in the release.

“This emergency funding from HUD couldn’t have come at a better time for the 76 families in Garfield County who were at risk for losing their homes this year,” he said. “These families needed help, and I am glad that we could work with the Garfield County Housing Authority and HUD officials to make this happen.”

Housing Authority Executive Director Geneva Powell, in a July 30 letter, had notified 76 randomly selected families, and 44 landlords, that they would no longer be receiving rental assistance under the HUD Housing Choice Voucher program, due to a $52,000 per month funding cut.

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The reason given was HUD’s budget cutbacks, which were being passed on to 2,400 housing agencies around the U.S.

“Everybody will be getting another letter saying we got our funding, and rescinding the letters we sent out previously,” Powell said Tuesday. “I want to give a big thanks to Sens. Bennet and [Mark] Udall, and Congressman Salazar for helping us to maintain this funding. Their effort really made a difference.”

The funding helps local families earning less than half of the area median income, which for a family of four in Garfield County is $35,700. The county housing authority has been providing rent assistance since it was formed in 1985, and in 2008 helped 364 families per month and paid out more than $2 million to area landlords from Carbondale to Parachute.

So far this year, Powell’s office has helped 387 families per month with more than $1.6 million in assistance, she said. Families pay up to 30 percent of the monthly rent. The average amount paid to each family is $612 per month, she said.

Powell said at least two of the 76 families that were notified had already made plans to leave the area and will likely proceed with those plans.

“Now, there will be no interruption in service for these families,” Powell said. “Our goal is to put people in housing and try keep them there, and this feels a lot better than terminating the arrangements with these families.”

The letter from Bennet and Salazar, addressed to HUD assistant secretary Sandra B. Henriquez, noted that the agency had already promised $89 million of a $100-million “set-aside” fund intended by Congress to “support housing authorities during times of financial hardship,” but that $11 million remained to be disbursed.

Bennet, Salazar and Udall also had a sit-down meeting with Henriquez, urging her to reconsider Garfield County’s case.

jstroud@postindependent.com

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